Epigenetics and You


(Phil) #1

I came across an interesting article on epigenetics focusing primarily on behavior, but with having far reaching consequences on life in general.

It is interesting as we look at behavioral problems and such things as anger issues and abuse to see that not only is it a “software” problem, but it can affect the “hardware” also. Nature and Nurture may well be closely intertwined. One thing that was not mentioned was whether it has been shown if germ cells are also affected, leading to generational inheritance of some of those tendencies. Also, if such is the case if those tendencies will persist in later generations, or if positive environmental changes will reverse adverse effects. Any thoughts?


(Stephen Matheson) #2

My thoughts are: a serious discussion of epigenetics should involve sources better than hers, and articles better than this. There is no doubt that modifications of DNA or (more commonly or at least better known) of the proteins attached to DNA, have been linked to heritable human conditions. But I think it is much less clear that these are commonly linked to environmental influences. My opinion: there is far more hype than science in the vogue discussions of “epigenetics.” Law schools need not yet teach the histone modification defense.


(Shawn T Murphy) #3

Philosophers and scientists have thought for centuries about this problem of nature versus nurture. They had red-hot debates about which one formed and defined a person; they wrote hundreds of essays and articles and books on the topic. As it turns out, the reality is much more complicated than the binary question suggests.

Epigenetics does not come close to explaining the multivariable function defining human behavior. In the analysis that I published in 2004, I showed that it take at least five independent variables to define who we are. The discussion on this has not yet begun.


(Phil) #4

Thanks, Stephen. The article is definitely a “pop science” type piece, but raises questions as to how much and in what ways we may be affected physically by environmental factors.
I have seen how this idea can be abused when an anti-porn program given used “epigenetic changes” could be inherited giving rise to porn addition in the next generation, which really diminished an otherwise good effort.
Any pointers for us to sources of the current state of epigenetic research?


(Stephen Matheson) #5

I’d read (and pay attention to) Carl Zimmer:



(Phil) closed #6

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